On the day Home Minister P. Chidambaram announced that each Naxal-affected district would get additional R45-50 crore every year for developmental works, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh assured that clearance to these projects will be fast-tracked.
The Planning Commission has already sent an Integrated Action Plan (IAP) of R14,000 crore for development of schools, hospitals and drinking water facilities in 60 districts, including 35 Left Wing Extremist affected, to the Prime Minister’s Office for approval, before it is tabled in the Cabinet.
Besides, it will envisage continuous efforts to improve governance like implementation of Panchayats Extension (to Schedule Areas) Act of 1996 (PESA) so as to give the tribals the right to use minor forest produce.
“Initially, 35 left wing extremist affected districts will be given R45-50 crore for setting up primary health care, educational and sanitation facilities,” Chidambaram said at a national conference on forestry administration in Naxal-affected areas.
Deputy chairperson of plan panel Montek Singh Ahluwalia said there will be enough money for developing roads but the emphasis would be on empowering people and improving governance. “Better governance is required as existing schemes are not performing,” he said.
Ramesh said there will be “maximum flexibility” in enforcing environmental laws for Pradhan Mantri Gramin Sadak Yojana in the 35 districts as connectivity was key to combat Naxalism. Apart from the IAP, the ministry will be asking states to utilise most of R5,000 crore provided by the 13th Finance Commission for forest management in these areas.
Under the Green India Mission, local youth in these areas would be employed as community forest officers with monthly wages of about R5,000. The Joint Forest Management Committees, mostly defunct in these areas, will work in closely with the panchayati raj bodies to improve people participation.
Stressing that development was key to end influence of Naxals among tribals and forest dwellers, Chidambaram said, “How much we may romanticise life in the forests, let us remember they will remain poor as long as they live the way they have lived.”
He said there was a need to give hope to people that the government was not hostile to them.